SIRIUS’s annual policy conference held 15th December 2017 was a platform bringing together representatives of EU institutions and Member States as well as academics, practitioners and other relevant stakeholders to explore the capacity of the education system for migrant children. Thus, the event was a useful occasion to discuss successes, challenges, gaps and potential priorities in the area of migrant education.

SIRIUS –the European Policy Network on the Education of Children and Young People with a Migrant Background – is one of the key stakeholders in migrant education as it is in charge of improving education systems to ensure equality. This network facilitates inclusive policymaking by exchanging knowledge and experience between researchers, practitioners, immigrant youth and communities and policymakers to develop strategies on migrant education.

Michalis Kakos, Senior Lecturer from Leeds Beckett University, started the panel by stating that generally, the complexity of inclusion in education is not taken account of in policies and support measures for young refugees and asylum seekers in Europe. In addition, he claimed that there is often very little information about students’ educational profile when they arrive in a host country and there is also instability in students’ settlement, especially in the first months/years after arrival resulting in a change of schools. Finally, the quality of educational provision and the educational experiences of refugee students are closely related to factors not directly controlled by the school such as their legal status, family circumstances and wider social aspects of their lives.

José-Lorenzo Vallés  (DG EAC)  confirmed that the lack of cooperation and coordination between different stakeholders and the absence of a coordinated central policy approach often compromise a coherent and effective approach to refugee education.

Finally, the six major school arrangements affecting school success that were discussed during the event are the following:
1. Free of costs of pre-school places for the youngest refugee children to start to learn a second language early.
2. Sustained second language programs should be available from pre-school.
3. For 16+ and 18+ students, education should be available also after compulsory schooling.
4. Short introductory classes, which should be connected to all secondary school levels.
5. Additional support teachers should be assigned.
6. Direct access to English Master programs for students who hold a BA.

In conclusion, Europe has recorded in the last three years an unprecedented high number of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants crossing its external borders. This is the reason why the European Union needs to address the challenge of offering education for these newly arrived migrants and refugees as education is one of the most powerful tools for integration.

EfVET supports newly arrived migrants and refugees education and social integration towards its participation as a partner LikeHome project.

Reported by Danel Ocio